What does the idiom "bite off more than sb can chew" mean?
The phrase bite off more than sb can chew is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of bite off more than sb can chew.
Meaning of "bite off more than sb can chew"
The idiom “bite off more than one can chew” suggests that a person has taken on more than they can handle or manage. It suggests that this person has taken on something that is too difficult for them to accomplish, or is beyond their capacity.
This idiom has its origins in the late 1700s, with the earliest known use of the phrase appearing in G.F. Sheperd’s 1776 book ‘The Life and Adventures of Philip Quarll’: “I took upon me more than I could chew”.
The phrase is believed to be derived from the literal act of biting off more food than one can chew. It implies that an individual has taken on more than they can physically handle, similarly to the act of biting off more food than one can chew and then being unable to swallow it.
This idiom is most commonly used to describe situations in which an individual has taken on more than they can realistically manage. It can be used to describe situations in which an individual has taken on more responsibility than they are able to handle, made commitments that they are unable to follow through on, or set goals that are beyond their capability. It can also describe situations in which an individual has taken on tasks and projects requiring more skill or knowledge than they possess.
It is also sometimes used to refer to individuals who overestimate their own abilities or attempt something without the necessary preparation or forethought.
- John took on a full-time job and a night course, but quickly realized that he had bitten off more than he could chew.
- The new manager was enthusiastic, but soon realized he had bitten off more than he could chew.
- I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with this project - I should have been better prepared!
- The team leader thought they could take on the project with the resources they had, but it soon became clear they had bitten off more than they could chew.
Idioms with similar meaning
"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an English idiom that means you shouldn't make assumptions about someone or something based solely on its appearance. In Japanese, the similar idiom is "Hana yori dango," which translates to "Dumplings rather than flowers." This idiom means that substance is more important than appearance.